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Southern Spars

Sailing Renaissance GGYC Cup celebration

by www.pressure-drop.us on 29 Jan 2011
Sailing Renaissance GGYC Cup Celebration www.h2oshots.com
Sailing Renaissance GGYC Cup had John Arndt (associate publisher Latitude 38) and Michelle Slade organized a meeting and AC34 celebration for the Bay Area sailing advocacy group, asking the Golden Gate Yacht Club if they’d set up seating for 30-40 people. This was to be a meeting for SR membership to discuss their ideas, areas of interest and concerns for the local recreational sailing and boating community with regard to the America’s Cup.

By Friday afternoon numbers had grown - just a little - with almost 200 crowding the upstairs grand room at GGYC. Tom Huston, COO of America’s Cup Event Authority spoke on behalf of America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA). A new face to me in this growing organization, Tom hails from a sports marketing career where he worked closely with ACEA CEO Craig Thompson and ACEA Chairman Richard Worth. Tom’s a Northern California native and pleased that the opportunity to work in the Cup has brought him back to San Francisco after 10 years in Europe. Tom is not a sailor but did a very nice job of presenting what lies ahead of ACEA over the next few years.

Keeping in mind that the San Francisco venue announcement was made just a few weeks ago, much of what Tom had to say was tempered with, 'it’s in the planning stages,' or. 'we’re not sure yet how that’s going to work,' and, 'stay posted for more!' I expect that this will be the case until a few major sponsors are in place that will help lend more direction to their plans.

The final portion of the meeting was dedicated to idea sharing with the many interested parties in attendance. A first call to action was determined: to form task groups to head up different interest areas that will be affected by the Cup’s presence, or interest areas that can be leveraged as a result of the Cup. For example, a task group devoted to communicating directly with the Coast Guard to represent local boaters who hope to be able to be on the water to view the AC34.


People with expertise in many different areas signed up to head task groups. The SR Steering Committee is putting together an organizational chart of all the key areas of interest/concern. Already many people have offered to head up these task groups. The goal is that SR becomes recognized by ACEA/ACRM as the representative constituency for the Bay Area sailing and boating community and that the heads of task groups can ultimately meet directly with ACEA/ACRM to discuss ideas and concerns in the interests of both groups working together to promote the sport of sailing.

We were also fortunate that Brad Webb, ORACLE Racing’s bow man, was able to also give a presentation on his recent experience winning AC33 on USA-17, a likely once in a lifetime experience for any pro sailor. I’ve seen Brad present a few times now and never tire of either the footage from AC33 or listening to Brad’s stories of this interesting time in AC history. Thanks Brad!

And here is a rough transcription of Brad Webb's 40 minute presentation:

Brad Webb has been a part of the Oracle Racing team for over ten years , and was instrumental in the construction and implementation of the Maxi Trimaran USA 17, otherwise known as 'Dogzilla' which defeated Ernesto Bertarelli’s maxi cat Alinghi last February and won the Americas Cup for the Golden Gate Yacht Club. Brad delighted members for the Sailing Renaissance Americas Cup Celebration with some keen behind the scene insight on the transformation and massive project that was USA 17

Brad flew to Anacortes, Washington State on Valentines day 2008, much to his wife chagrin…

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'When we put the boat in the water in August 2008, it was a bit of a rush job. We had to get it splashed just in case the trigger (legal) got pulled and we had a regatta to go to. USA 17 started off with short floats, soft sails and grinder and a 51 meter mast.

At the end August 2008, USA is shipped down to San Diego, 'But again the goals were moving so fast that we really had no idea what we were setting ourselves up for, At one point we had a regatta scheduled for May, then September and as it got closer, it got moved to 2010. Even a month before the Cup, we were not sure if we were going to race'

'San Diego was a tough year in many respects. We started racing the boat as hard as we could in order to find out what needed to be optimized. As it became clear we had time, we changed the floats for ones 25’ longer, installed a new rig and new sails. It then became clear that Alinghi was going to put a motor on their cat and did not care what we thought. We fought it at first, but meanwhile, we were figuring out how we were going to match them. Simultaneously we were secretly building the wing.

'By September’s end, we had finished testing and decided to completely reconfigure the boat. We removed all the pedestals, put an engine in the boat and ran it all via computer with a central processing unit. The hydraulics, the engine, temp, functions, the wing and sensors, the whole lot. October was just crazy. Carbon fiber flying, BMW engineers swapping out motors, redoing the plumbing and rigging on the whole yacht.

'In November, we put the boat back in the water, no mucking around and sailed hard for about a week until we dropped rig 3 over the side in a hail of carbon fiber. (Lucky for me I was home sick) We backed the boat in, took apart the remainder of rig 3 and waited a couple days for the wing to be ready. We had about 4 weeks to play with the wing to see if it was going to work. We had started with a rig 19 meter’s shorter than the wing, and had 3 reefs and a storm jib in Anacortes. We were now sailing with a 60 meter wing in 25 knots!'

November was frantic.' We had promised ourselves we were going to get the boat out and practice race. As it turns out, we never completed the course until the first day of the Cup! So there’s your pressure!'


The boat went onto a ship in December straight to Valencia. 'We took 2 weeks to reassemble the dedicated 2 weeks to figure out the systems. As I said before, we had not even made it around the course yet, in fact it wasn’t even that good, we had not even gotten to do a bear away to a downwind sail yet! Our primary focus now was to figure that out.'

'We had tried a couple times in San Diego but what we found out was we had so much apparent wind acoss the sail ( 22 knots of boat speed in 20 knots of breeze with 40 knot on the deck) We would go to hoist the downwind sail and it would just get blown backwards and hook on the control arms of the wing and rip them off. So we came up with a system where we would take a halyard forward, and clip it off, then take the head of the sail forward and clip it to that and use it as a guide to raise the sail without interfering with the wing.'

The Boat and Big Wind:
While training in Valencia, the crew experience on of the infamous winter Nor Easters as a front passed through, Brad elaborates: ' The Winter N.E. winds are pretty heinous, an awful slump that comes out of the North East and builds up quickly. We were out sailing and the breeze came up. We removed the jib and were sailing with just the wing, doing 24 knots in 25 knot of breeze. And the boat and rig were handling it all very nicely. We looked back at the harbor and saw Alinghi come out, look about then head back in. It brought a lot of grins, a really good day!


The Mooring system: When the wing was up the boat would live on a mooring which was fine up to 15 or so knots. If predicted winds were above 15, the wing came off for the night. One evening in San Diego, the crew got a 1:00 AM wake up call because the harbor was gusting to 40 knots, and because of the shiftiness in the gusts, the boat was sailing over her mooring then bouncing back. The crews jumped in the ribs and tethered off the stern and spent the rest of the night full throttling in the opposite direction until the winds subsided.

USA 17, (Brad never uses the term 'Dogzilla' ) will be shipped in one piece ( Hull) with the wing broken down to a managable 60 Meter mast front section and flaps in 8 pieces. She due in San Francisco in March. She is expected to sail the bay shortly thereafter, sans the extension which will not fit under the Bay Bridge or the Golden Gate! When asked how she will she will handle 35 knots and SF Bays’s infamous square chop, Brad deadpanned ' I don’t know'

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